The Jungle Book
Length: 106 minutes / 1.77 hours
If there’s any more proof there aren’t any new ideas in Hollywood, it’s the fact that beloved animated classics are being remade as live-action films. Sometimes this works, but more often than not, the ploy to attract those nostalgic feelings from the audience fails, thus leaving the viewer with the sense that their childhood is ruined. I’m generally pretty hesitant of these types of films, mainly because part of me doesn’t want to admit that the original films sometimes weren’t that great. That being said, the latest in these adaptations, The Jungle Book (2016) certainly surprised me.
Unlike some films like Maleficent (2014), which takes a different point of view from the main story of Sleeping Beauty (1959), and more like Cinderella (2015), which covers the same material as its predecessor, Cinderella (1950), The Jungle Book takes the main ideas from Rudyard Kipling’s book, via the animated interpretation of The Jungle Book (1967) and brings the adaptation to near perfection. While The Jungle Book’s classically animated predecessor certainly had its moments, a lot of its appeal fell to obvious popular culture references (like the Beatles as vultures), and a number of catchy and flashy song-and-dance routines. As a result, I can’t honestly remember what the plot of the original film was trying to convey. This was why I was quite impressed with director Jon Favreau’s adaptation: the plot was direct and made sense, while also highlighting man’s ability to create useful (as well as deadly) tools. It was clear how Mowgli (Neel Sethi) needed to adapt to his strengths to survive in the jungle instead of just hanging around with his animal friends. Also, the clear distinction of the connection between him and Shere Khan (Idris Elba) created a much-needed tension to the story.
Some will recall that The Jungle Book has already been made as a live-action film with The Jungle Book (1994). However, advances in computer-generated imagery over the years have made the ability to create talking animals a mind-numbingly realistic endeavor. The voice acting cast for this version was pretty spot on, and the pacing was fantastic. What’s more, there still were snippets of songs and subtle pop culture references (my favorite being the cowbell in King Louie’s (Christopher Walken) lair), but they didn’t distract from the flow of the film.
A superior film to its classically animated predecessor, I give The Jungle Book 5.0 stars out of 5.